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A Youth Worker’s Disney Confession

Tony Myles —  December 11, 2013 — 4 Comments

joejonasJoe Jonas recently opened up about his experience as a “Disney” kid.

Maybe there’s nothing surprising here… but read on.

“Being a part of a company like [Disney] comes with certain expectations. Not overtly, but there was a subtle vibe. We were working with Disney in 2007 when the Vanessa Hudgens nude-photo scandal happened. We heard that she had to be in the Disney offices for a whole day because they were trying to figure out how to keep her on lockdown. We’d hear execs talking about it, and they would tell us that they were so proud of us for not making the same mistakes, which made us feel like we couldn’t ever mess up. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone—our parents, our fans, our employers—so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under. We were just kids. That’s the reality. We were frightened little kids. So you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect. … [But] being a part of the Disney thing for so long will make you not want to be this perfect little puppet forever. Eventually, I hit a limit and thought, Screw all this, I’m just going to show people who I am. I think that happened to a lot of us. Disney kids are spunky in some way, and I think that’s why Disney hires them. ‘Look, he jumped up on the table!’ Five, six, 10 years later, they’re like, “Oh! What do we do?” Come on, guys. You did this to yourselves. The first time I smoked weed was with Demi [Lovato] and Miley [Cyrus]. I must have been 17 or 18. They kept saying, ‘Try it! Try it!’ so I gave it a shot, and it was all right. … I was caught drinking when I was 16 or 17, and I thought the world was going to collapse.”
—24-year-old Joe Jonas, in an extensive interview published at vulture.com about his and his brothers’ rise to fame as the Jonas Brothers [vulture.com, 12/1/13]

Jonas also added that much of this began because he was “used to growing up in public. I was a pastor’s kid, so eyes were always on me, even then. I sat in the first pew of the church, and I had to wear a suit every Sunday, because my parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be.”

So… let’s sidestep the time we can spend deconstructing the Disney machine here. (In fact, it may be worth noting that not every Disney star feels the same way he does/did). I will add that you should Jonas’ other personal reflections about church, religion, purity rings and more. It’s an eye opener, especially if you plan on promoting someone as an “example” to your students to look up to.

Let’s also pause chatter on how senior pastors aren’t parenting their kids like they should, “blah blah blah.”

Instead, I’d offer you a question as a youth worker…

What are the high-end expectations that we might unknowingly put on youth group kids that cause them to shine today but explode later?

And… if you have the courage and raw honesty to answer this..

What are the high-end expectations that YOU might unknowingly put on youth group kids that cause them to shine today but explode later?

I’ll answer, too.

How about you get the conversation started?

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

4 responses to A Youth Worker’s Disney Confession

  1. Being a PK, and a current youth worker, I feel like I’ve been pretty “down-to-Earth” with my teens about this Jesus stuff/Christianity.

    I’m honest, maybe TOO honest at times about struggles, questions, doubts, but I figure if I make it a safe environment to voice those types of things than I’d rather them talk to me about it now– then deal with it in college without a mentor or someone to talk to about it.

    Let me give you an example. A girl I grew up with, went to bible school with, attended youth conferences with, a mission trip to Guatemala, etc. is now an atheist. We grew up in the same youth group. Hearing the same things. Both having Christian parents. Etc. What was the difference? I don’t think she was ever allowed to voice some questions/doubts and when she finally had the freedom to do so it took her down a different way of thinking.

    Sure, that’s an extreme example, but I think we need to give our teens some grace to talk things out. Let’s struggle through the tough ones together. And let’s not feel the need to answer every question with a beautifully wrapped box. That’s not helpful and it certainly isn’t how life works.

    Sometimes we ask our teens for perfection, but I’d rather instill them with an idea of– how can we have a genuine encounter with God? With grace? And live life together, in the muck of it all.

    • Tony Myles

      Holly – great insights, as both a youth worker and pastor’s kid. I wonder what it means for us to make sure kids have that chance to share what they need to share, but also still keep the larger picture in front of them. Sometimes I can tell that a student is just raising a question to be a distraction to the group or prove how mature they think they are… then there are other times when it’s a real question that needs a real answer and space to figure it out. I suppose part of the challenge is making sure even the former category of kids can feel welcomed and not shunned even as they shun. :)

      • The beautiful balance. I’ve definitely experienced the kid asking questions just for giggles and distractions. I guess, I meant more in regards to those one on one conversations. Thanks for your thoughts! :)

  2. Christianprincess December 12, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    It’s a hard balance. Anyone who knows my style knows that I am pretty open with my teens and adamant about creating a safe place for them. I also have high expectations because I believe they need to see that there is more to life than the destructive and dead-end decisions that the world and many of their communities present to them as life. Despite the challenge I try. I try to keep the expectations from becoming pressures that I put on them. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.
    I also try to lead with grace and humility. When I feel I have overstepped or was overly harsh or even overly nice about something, I go back and apologize and attempt to correct my wrong. I pray constantly for them and for myself as their leader and ask God to truly guide in how I present the Gospel and an authentic life lived for Christ before them.

    Like Holly, I grew up pretty churched. I am not a PK, but my grandmother’s a pastor, grandfather an elder, mom’s a minister, uncle’s a pastor, a couple of uncles are deacons and most of my grandparents are in ministry. I know church, but particularly church kids very well. (This knowledge comes in handy when calling a student on irresponsible decisions that they try to cover up in church language) The pressure can be excruciating if you don’t have parents who are willing to stand up and advocate for your childhood and right to just be a kid. Thankfully I had that. As youth workers, no matter our background (churched, unchurched, jaded returner, PK, or whatever), we have to remind ourselves of our role to teach the Gospel of Christ more with our lives than our words and expectations. When we become advocates alongside parents (hopefully alongside) to teach our children the authentic Gospel, while walking with them in discovering how to live that Gospel message through their lives for themselves, we will likely see more authenticity and vulnerability instead of perfection and explosions.

    Perfection shouldn’t be our goal, authenticity and maturity should.

    Thank you for all you do.

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